Press Release

Look out for the elderly this festive season

– a plea from Minister for Services for Older People, Ivor Callely TD

Ivor Callely TD, Minister for Services for Older People, has today (23 December 2003) made a plea to all to be mindful of the elderly this Christmas. “All it takes is a few minutes over the holidays to call in to your elderly neighbours and say hello. Many older people are afraid to ask for help, especially at this time of year when everybody is busier than usual with preparations for Christmas and the New Year. This is the time when older people are most vulnerable, however. A few minuets of your time is all it takes to make sure that the older people in your locality have enough fuel and food, and are warm, fed and happy.”

There are many illnesses and ailments which can affect older people during the winter months, not least amongst these is hypothermia which occurs when the normal internal body temperature of 37°c falls to 35°c or below. If hypothermia is discovered early, it is easy to treat, but if not it can cause coma or even death. The elderly and people with decreased mobility are particularly at risk of developing hypothermia because they are less able to maintain body temperature in cold conditions. Alcohol and some medicines can also affect the body’s ability to regulate temperature.

“Older people should dress for the temperature, especially if going outside. Several thin layers of clothing instead of one thick layer helps to trap heat close to your body. Very importantly, you should stay active, but it may be better to stay indoors in very cold weather”, the Minister said.

There is also worry about falls at this time of the year. A person who exercises regularly before a fall occurs will recover much more quickly if they do have an accident. However, falling is not a normal part of ageing, and certain things can be done to help ensure this doesn´t happen. When walking, look out for uneven paving, leaves covering protruding tree roots and slippery, frosty paths. Walkways around the home should be cleared of clutter, cords and curling rugs. A well lit home inside and out is also essential. Wear the right shoes – closed in shoes with broad, flared heals and non-slip soles for grip are best. Shoes should be firm fitting, sloppy slippers can be dangerous.

It is also important to ensure that fireguards are used properly at this time of year, that electric blankets are switched off after use and smoke alarms should be checked to ensure they are working once a week.

“All it takes is for each of us to do a little to help those around us who may not be so well able to look after themselves this Christmas to make a real difference. If this time of year is about the spirit of sharing, a little time is truly the greatest gift we can give to this vulnerable section of our society”, added Minister Callely.